Thursday, October 3, 2013

Eyewitness Identifications Lead to Wrongful Convictions

Video Description:
Karen Newirth, a staff attorney from the Innocence Project who focuses on eyewitness identification explains that although witness identification seems to be the gold standard for prosecution, 75% of 300 exonerations the Project was involved with included eyewitness misidentification.

NY - Saffran pledges bill to bar sex offenders - Exploiting children, fear and ex-offenders for votes?

Dennis Saffran exploiting children, fear and ex-offenders for votes?
Dennis Saffran
Original Article

As usual, when you are running for a political office, just break out the children, fear and ex-offenders to get votes by the sheeple for your own election campaign! New York already has these types of laws, but that doesn't stop politicians from exploiting the issue and the ignorance of the people to get elected!


By Phil Corso

Republican City Council candidate Dennis Saffran visited a playground in Whitestone to promise northeast Queens voters he would fight to keep registered sex offenders away from places populated with kids if elected in November.

Calling on a similar Nassau County appellate court decision he won as an attorney in September, the GOP-backed Saffran pledged he would draft legislation in the Council to bar sex offenders from living near schools, playgrounds or their victims. The Douglaston native pointed out the residences of 22 registered offenders living near such spots in his northeast Queens 19th District and outlined his plan to mirror what he helped achieve in the borough’s neighboring county.

Standing at the Willets Point Playground on 166th Street, Saffran singled out several registered offenders living near parks and schools throughout the district, pointing to the home of one such offender one block from the playground.
- So even politicians are using the online hit-list for their own agenda!  This is another reason why the hit-list should be taken offline and used by police only, then politicians would have to come up with another scapegoat to exploit.

It is unacceptable that parents in northeast Queens have to send their children to schools and playgrounds within walking distance of convicted child rapists and sexual predators,” Saffran said. “One of my first actions as councilman will be to introduce a bill like the one the court just upheld.”

Early last month, Saffran argued and won on behalf of Nassau County a ruling against a court decision to strike down the county’s sex offender residency restriction law, he said. The case involved designated sex offender _____, who served 22 months in prison on a child pornography conviction and was later charged with violating Nassau law by living within 500 feet of two pre-K-to-12 schools, including one for children with special needs, Saffran said.

The Nassau County lower court dropped the charges on the grounds that county law was pre-empted by state law, Saffran said, but an appeals court later reinstated the charges.

The decision is a tremendous victory for the community,” said Laura Ahearn, of Parents for Megan’s Law. “The message is loud and clear — the protection of children is a top priority.”
- Laura is nothing more than a vigilante, in our opinion, and she has created fake profiles on Facebook to target people, and this organization is also in charge of sex offender compliance checks in New York, which is a conflict of interest.

The victory implemented a similar law to those of other municipalities throughout the state, in which registered sex offenders must file with a state registry under Megan’s Law, barring them from living within 1,000 feet of schools, 500 feet of a park, or 2,000 feet from their victims.

This decision is a victory for parents across the state, allowing communities to pass laws that place the safety of children above the rights of dangerous predators,” Saffran said. “It is unacceptable that New York City has not passed such legislation providing our children with the same protection as the children in Nassau County and over 100 other localities around the state.”

Saffran was the lone Republican to step up in the race to replace outgoing City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone), whose seat will be decided in the November general election against Democratic nominee Paul Vallone. The 19th District oversees neighborhoods including Auburndale, Bayside, College Point, Douglaston, Flushing and parts of Little Neck.

AFRICA - Male sexual abuse

No More Victims

Video Description:
Pennie Farrell, L.C.S.W., Ph.D., says, "80% of sex offenders who successfully complete a certified treatment program never commit another sex crime." In this video, Dr. Farrell shares insights from her 21 plus years experience treating sex offenders. She explains what she is trying to accomplish with her website, and she compares recidivism rates between treated sex offenders and other non-sex crime offenders. Other questions she explores are, Why are some sex offenders not treatable? Why do some fail while others succeed? What are the changes sex offenders go through in treatment? and Are sex offenders ever cured? Her answers surprise most people.

Kat's Story: Becoming Outcast

Video Description:
In this video I am telling of my experience becoming outcast, a social pariah, at the age of 8. This is a very personal story but it is good to share. If you want to know the whole story, check out my website. It is still under construction but I am devoting a good part of it to sharing my story. (Website)

UK - Predicting violence among psychopaths is no more than chance

Risk assessment
Original Article


Risk assessment tools used to predict prisoner re-offending are no more accurate than tossing a coin when it comes to psychopaths, according to new research from Queen Mary University of London.

The researchers say the findings – which also show the tools perform at best moderately in those with depression, drug and alcohol dependence and schizophrenia – have major implications for risk assessment in criminal populations. The study, funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) under its Programme Grants for Applied Research Programme, is published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

They warn that clinicians carrying out such classifications must be aware of these limitations and ensure prisoners undergo comprehensive psychiatric diagnosis ahead of any risk assessment.

As part of the Prisoner Cohort Study* 1,396 male prisoners in England and Wales were interviewed between six and 12 months before their release. All prisoners included were serving determinate sentences of two or more years for a sexual or violent offence.

The prisoners interviewed were assessed for personality disorders, symptoms of schizophrenia, depression and drug and alcohol dependence, while the Hare Psychopathy Check List (Revised) (PCL-R) was used to measure psychopathic personality. The outcome was whether or not prisoners had at least one conviction for a violent offence within three years of release recorded in the UK Police National Computer. Three different re-offending risk assessment tools were used to compare their performance**.

The results showed:
  • All three assessment tools performed moderately to well when no mental health disorder was present.
  • Results were no better than moderate for those diagnosed with schizophrenia (average accuracy over the three assessment 59.5 per cent) and depression (average accuracy 60.8 per cent).
  • There was further reduction for those with substance abuse disorders (average accuracy 55.5 per cent for those with drug dependence and 59.5 per cent for individuals with an alcohol disorder).
  • For prisoners with antisocial personality disorders the predictive value of the tests ranged from poor to no more than chance (average 53.2 per cent predictive accuracy).
  • For the 70 prisoners who rated high on the measure of psychopathic personality, none of the tests were statistically better than chance (average accuracy 46.7 per cent).

Professor Jeremy Coid, Director of Forensic Psychiatry Research Unit at Queen Mary who led the research, said: “There are increasing expectations of public protection from violent behaviour and psychiatrists can be seriously criticised if they make wrong decisions around the release of offenders.”

However, here we have demonstrated the difficulties of accurately predicting re-offending in certain groups. Indeed, the tools available are no more accurate than tossing a coin when it comes to psychopaths.”

Professor Coid said the results suggest it might be time to question expectations put on psychiatrists and psychologists who attempt to predict future behaviour and consider what can happen to their reputations if predictions are wrong.

The easy solution is to be highly restrictive on who is released, and be risk averse. However, even for serious offenders, most will be released at some stage and someone has to carry out a risk assessment.”

The most important future question is over risk management – i.e. what can be done to prevent further violent offending. This area needs to be prioritised for future research. However, in the case of psychopaths, we cannot predict which ones will reoffend and we know very little about the best way to manage them in the community when released to prevent reoffending. Unfortunately, this is common and 40% were later convicted for violence in our study.”

The study’s findings do not explain why the tools failed to predict violence in psychopaths and there could be a number of potential reasons.

Professor Coid added: “It may be that the objective measures taken into account by some tests – such as age and criminal history – vary little among psychopathic offenders and therefore can’t differentiate within this group.”

Another possible explanation is that the ability of psychopaths to lie convincingly, con, and manipulate even experienced clinicians means we need to exclude subjective clinical judgement. Whatever the reason, we need to prioritise the development of new assessment tools for these hard to predict groups.”

The study did not include life-sentence prisoners as it would not have been possible to assess them prospectively in anticipation of their release date. The generalisability of the findings is therefore restricted to similar populations. In addition to this it is possible that violence during the three-year follow-up period was underestimated as it was defined on the basis of criminal records and did not include self-reporting.

* The Prisoner Cohort Study (October 2002 to May 2006) was funded by the Ministry of Justice (formerly the Home Office). It was a large-scale study of a cohort of serious sexual and violent offenders who were about to be released from prison.

** The three assessment instruments used in the study were:
  • Historical, Clinical, Risk Management-20 (HCR-20) – a 20-item checklist used to assess the risk for future violent behavior in criminal and psychiatric populations. It determines the presence or absence of each of 20 risk factors according to three levels of certainty—absent, possibly present, or definitely present.
  • The Violence Risk Appraisal Guide (VRAG) – an actuarial tool for the prediction of violent re-offending.
  • The Offender Group Reconviction Scale (OGRS) – a predictor of re-offending based on static risks – age, gender and criminal history.

NJ - Former Woodland Park officer (Steven Vigorito Jr.) sentenced to five years for attempted sexual assault of girl, 12

Steven Vigorito Jr.
Steven Vigorito Jr.
Original Article


By Dan Ivers

PATERSON - A former Woodland Park police officer was sentenced to five years in prison today for attempting to sexually assault a 12-year-old girl.

Steven Vigorito Jr., 41, agreed to the prison term as part of an agreement with prosecutors earlier this year. He will also be required to register as a sex offender, and will never be able to work in law enforcement again.

A veteran of the Navy, Vigorito was arrested in April 2012, after a Woodland Park woman complained that he and her daughter had been exchanging sexually explicit text messages. The images included pictures of Vigorito exposing his penis while in uniform, and requests for the girl to meet him for sex.

Prosecutors say he and the girl had met while he responded to a call from her parents about her sneaking out of the house with an older boy.

The state's No Early Release Act will require Vigorito to serve at least 85 percent of his sentence before he is eligible for parole.

See Also:

UK - ITV documentary on child sex offenders travelling abroad

Unhappy female
Original Article


Helpline on hand as 'Exposure: Predators Abroad' investigates offenders travelling abroad to abuse children

NSPCC's helpline is available for advice and support for anyone concerned about child sex abuse and the issues raised in 'Exposure: Predators Abroad' broadcasting on ITV1 on Wednesday 2 October.

The programme follows child protection campaigner Mark Williams Thomas (Twitter) as he travels to Cambodia, a country with a reputation as a haven for child sex offenders.

During the investigation undercover filming reveals a man describing bringing children as young as 12 years old to tourists' hotel rooms.

Thomas also tracks down a British schoolteacher who was jailed by the Cambodian authorities in 2012 for sex offences.

Police in the UK can apply for a foreign travel order to keep convicted sex offenders in the country, and anyone on the sex offenders register must notify the police if they intend to go abroad.

However, the charity End Child Prostitution, Pornography and Trafficking (ECPAT) has said that foreign travel orders are still underused.

Watch a preview clip of Exposure: Predators Abroad

Contact our helpline for support and advice

If you are worried about a child or have any concerns about what you saw in the programme, contact our helpline on 0808 800 5000.

Read more online advice about child sexual abuse

CA - Governor Jerry Brown signs bill outlawing revenge pornography in California

Revenge Porn
Original Article


SACRAMENTO - California Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed a bill outlawing so-called revenge pornography and levying possible jail time for people who post naked photos of their exes after bitter breakups.

Senate Bill 255 (PDF), which takes effect immediately, makes it a misdemeanor to post identifiable nude pictures of someone else online without permission with the intent to cause emotional distress or humiliation. The penalty is up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

"Until now, there was no tool for law enforcement to protect victims," the bill's author, Sen. Anthony Cannella, said in a statement. "Too many have had their lives upended because of an action of another that they trusted."

Cannella, a Republican from Ceres, has said revenge pornography is a growing problem in the age of social media, when photos and videos that were made privately during a relationship can find their way onto hundreds of websites.

Before the criminal law was enacted, California allowed victims to sue their virtual assailants, but that is an expensive and time-consuming option.

The American Civil Liberties Union had opposed the bill, arguing it might restrict free speech rights, which has been a concern in other states as well.

Florida lawmakers rejected a similar bill this year after First Amendment concerns surfaced there. Last year, the Missouri Supreme Court cited concerns about free speech in striking down part of a 2008 law enacted after a teenager who was teased online committed suicide.

CA - Restricted Group Speaks Up, Saying Sex Crime Measures Go Too Far

Jason Shelton at home
Original Article



LOS ANGELES - Larry Neely looked out across the expanse of an airport hotel conference room that usually holds conventions of labor unions, political groups or business executives.

On this day, though, the chairs were filled with dozens of people who, like Mr. Neely have had to register as sex offenders.

Mr. Neely who pleaded guilty to multiple counts of sexual indecency with a child dating to 2003, said that at first, “I was terrified; I was hiding, hoping to stay under the radar.”

Across the room, men in the crowd nodded.

As local and state governments have imposed tough penalties for sex crimes in recent years, including restrictions on where sex offenders can live or even set foot, members of this highly stigmatized group have begun to fight back.

A few weeks ago, more than 100 people — sex offenders, almost all of them men, along with wives, girlfriends and mothers — came from around the country to “Justice for All: A Conference to Reform Sexual Offense Laws.”

They and others have formed associations and are holding conferences like this one to argue that a wave of legal penalties and restrictions washing across the country has gone too far. They hope to convince judges, lawmakers and the public that indiscriminate laws aimed at all sex offenders are unconstitutional and ineffective.

Over the last few years, Mr. Neely has overcome his fear and taken on a decidedly public role: He has become an advocate for sex offenders’ rights. At the conference, he urged others to speak up.

Your fears are really rational,” Mr. Neely said. “But if you don’t fight, you will lose.”

It is no easy sell, though.

A patchwork of laws that have gained favor since the mid-’90s, popular with lawmakers and voters alike, bar convicted sex offenders from a large and growing array of public spaces. In California, as in many other states, sex offenders cannot live within 2,000 feet of a school, park or playground, and last year, a number of cities in Orange County forbade them to enter public parks and beaches.

A decade ago, the Supreme Court upheld the practice of posting the names, photographs and addresses of sex offenders online, and now many states maintain web sites with that information. Janice Bellucci, a lawyer with Reform Sex Offender Laws, sponsor of the conference here for the last five years, ran through a list of challenges to other laws that had been shot down in courts across the country.

I wish I had good news to report, but I don’t,” she told those present. “We’ve got to overturn this Supreme Court decision, because it’s harming you all every day.”

Victims’ rights advocates expressed outrage at the notion of a convention to promote the rights of sex offenders.

I find it very offensive that registered sex offenders are trying to defeat the measures we have put in place to protect children,” said Nina Salarno Ashford, a lawyer with Crime Victims United. “They created their own issues. In trying to find sympathy, they’re forgetting that somebody was assaulted, in many cases a child.”

There are plenty of reasons sex offenders decline to speak publicly. Many have struggled to find work or a place to live since their convictions, and worry that neighbors will try to force them out if they learn of their criminal history. In the halls between workshops here, conference attendees discussed vigilantes who targeted and occasionally killed sex offenders.

Still, with more than 700,000 people now on sex offender registries across the country — close to the population of Alaska — the ranks of those willing to speak out are growing, albeit slowly.

A lot of us are doing what we are supposed to do,” Jason Shelton said. Since serving four years after a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl when he was 29, Mr. Shelton has married and finished an associate degree at a community college. He has been unable to find work because of his record, he said, and he and his wife now live with her mother.

At the conference, he resolved to speak publicly about the challenges he faced.

I don’t want to bother anyone else,” he said. “All I want is a job.”

Kathy Crawford, whose son is in federal prison for downloading child pornography, said she planned to testify before the Indiana legislature on her son’s behalf. Others who had done so warned her not to expect to sway any lawmakers. Change, they said, would be incremental.

It’s hard for me to say, ‘This is what my son’s offense was,’ ” said Ms. Crawford, 59, who was visibly uncomfortable discussing her son’s case. She refused to give his name and referred to child pornography as “C.P.” “But I have to do everything I can so that when he finishes paying his debt, he can be done.”

Her discomfort was shared by many at the conference, highlighting the challenge of advocating for people who have committed crimes some consider akin to murder.

Instead of focusing on their own stories, many referred to recent studies, like a four-state survey paid for in part by the Justice Department that found that the recidivism rate among sex offenders was about 5 percent within five years of being released from custody. They also point to laws restricting where registered sex offenders can live, saying they have, in some cases, proved counterproductive, forcing many to move out of their family homes and turn to homelessness, making them more likely to commit another offense.

Prosecutors, however, remain dubious.

We recognize that there is some argument that these laws don’t work, the residency restrictions, but I think the jury is still out; I think they’re good laws,” said Susan Kang Schroeder, the spokeswoman for the Orange County district attorney, Tony Rackauckas, who last year spearheaded the campaign to ban registered sex offenders from public beaches and parks.

The pro-sex-offender lobby likes to bandy about percentages, as if even 1 percent is acceptable,” Ms. Schroeder said in an interview last year.

But in November, a state appeals court struck down the Orange County law. And last week, after the group Reform Sex Offender Laws sued, the City of Cypress, in Orange County, repealed a law requiring registered sex offenders to post signs on their front doors on Halloween.

See Also: